Solidarity or Schism? Registration and Demobilization of Chinese Christians
Why, when facing state-backed repression, do groups sometimes band together in solidarity and sometimes fail to do so? This paper contributes to the literature on repression by studying how and why repressed groups react to repressive incidents, focusing on how state-sanctioned civil society groups affect solidarity. Specifically, drawing on a year of ethnographic field work conducted in Chinese Christian Churches in Shanghai and five other Chinese cities, it studies the impact of the Chinese Communist Party’s Cross Demolition Campaign on patterns of solidarity and victim-blaming among Christian Churches. Adding to work that has shown how repression and conflict can engender solidarity among repressed minorities, this work demonstrates conditions under which repressed group members become more fragmented and scattered rather than more unified. Based on evidence from 64 elite and mass interviews, it finds that state-sanctioned groups’ legibility to the state constrains their members materially and cognitively, thus enabling dynamics of victim-blaming that hinder solidarity in response to repression.